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The Benefit is a beautiful pink sake cocktail with ginger, lemongrass, and grapefruit that you can make by the pitcher for a small crowd.

a pink sake cocktail in a rocks glass garnished with lemongrass
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Why we love this recipe

Every year Umami Girl donates a handful of cooking parties for six people to charity auctions for local groups. In exchange for generous donations, people get to come to UG headquarters and cook together with friends and family while sipping homemade cocktails, then sit down together to eat and drink some more.

At one 2019 event, our menu centered around that epic Nobu dish, miso black cod. It’s one of those recipes that’s easy (as long as you prep in advance) and just oh-so-good to serve at a dinner party. The Benefit makes an ideal party starter for that menu and so many others. It’s:

  • Brisk and refreshing
  • A lovely balance of common cocktail ingredients and some that may be less-familiar to your guests
  • Prep-ahead friendly
  • Easy to make by the pitcher

I first published this recipe here in 2019, adapted from Bojon Gourmet. I’ve since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

sake cocktail ingredients
  • Sake is a Japanese rice wine. I tend to use a good-quality Junmai or Junmai Gingo sake that I enjoy drinking. (Junmai means there’s no no distilled alcohol added, and gingo has to do with the percentage that the rice is polished before brewing.) Here I’ve pictured a cute little can that also includes the word genshu, which means it wasn’t diluted after brewing and therefore has a slightly higher alcohol percentage (18% vs. about 15%).
  • Use a top-shelf vodka. I tend to stock Grey Goose, which has a lovely, toasty vibe and creamy finish. Belvedere is another great choice. I’m not really on the Tito’s bandwagon, but if you are, that would be a fine option, too. (Or make this cocktail with gin if you prefer.)
  • Be sure to use freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Meyer lemon juice, which combine to provide a gorgeous spectrum of citrus flavors. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemon juice is a fine substitution. Meyer lemons are a little bit sweeter and more floral, but both versions of this cocktail are nice.
  • Fresh ginger packs a ton of flavor and a bit of heat. There’s no need to peel it for this recipe, since you’ll strain it out.
  • Lemongrass has a beautiful, complex flavor profile that brings bright, botanical vibes to this cocktail. Choose firm, fragrant stalks. Since you’ll be straining out the solids, you can include the tough outer layers and upper portions of the stalks — just trim the bases and reserve the tips to use as garnish.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a lovely batch of sake cocktails. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll muddle together the sugar, lemongrass, and ginger.
  2. Pour in the vodka and let it sit.
  3. Add the juices and the sake.
  4. Strain and serve.

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

You can get a head start (and amp up the flavor profile) by muddling the ginger, lemongrass, and sugar and steeping it in the vodka up to a week in advance. Just cover it tightly and keep it in the fridge. Citrus juice will be at its absolute best for about three hours after squeezing, so I don’t recommend proceeding with the rest of the prep until then.

Can I make a single cocktail instead of a pitcher?

Sure thing. To make one drink, muddle together in the bottom of a cocktail shaker 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger. Pour in one ounce (30 ml) vodka and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sake, 1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Meyer lemon juice, and plenty of ice. Shake well, until very cold. Double-strain into an ice-filled glass, garnish with lemongrass, and serve.

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a pink sake cocktail in a rocks glass garnished with lemongrass

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a pink sake cocktail in a rocks glass garnished with lemongrass
4.68 from 79 votes

The Benefit: A Sake Cocktail

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
The Benefit is a beautiful pink sake cocktail with lemongrass, ginger, grapefruit, and more.
Prep: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 drinks
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Ingredients 

  • 6 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 3- inch piece fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vodka
  • 4 cups (950 ml) premium sake
  • 1 ½ cups (355 ml) freshly squeezed pink or ruby red grapefruit juice
  • ½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

Instructions 

  • Trim bottom end and woody top half of each lemongrass stalk, reserving tops to use as garnish. Roughly chop remaining segments and add to a mini food processor.
  • Roughly chop ginger (no need to peel) and add to food processor along with sugar.
  • Pulse until ingredients are very finely chopped. 
  • Transfer lemongrass mixture to a 4-cup glass measuring cup, quart-sized mason jar, or nonreactive bowl.
  • Pour in the vodka and stir.
  • Let sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature — up to a week in the fridge.
  • Strain vodka into a pitcher through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing down a bit to extract flavor from the solids.
  • Pour in sake, grapefruit juice, and Meyer lemon juice and give it a stir.
  • Add two cups of ice.
  • To serve, pour into glasses filled partway with ice. To garnish, trim woody bits from tops of reserved lemongrass stalks and slice to form a fanlike shape.

Notes

  1. Lemongrass has a beautiful, complex flavor profile that brings bright, botanical vibes to this cocktail. Choose firm, fragrant stalks. Since you'll be straining out the solids, you can include the tough outer layers and upper portions of the stalks — just trim the bases and reserve the tips to use as garnish.
  2. Fresh ginger packs a ton of flavor and a bit of heat. There's no need to peel it for this recipe, since you'll strain it out.
  3. Use a top-shelf vodka. I tend to stock Grey Goose, which has a lovely, toasty vibe and creamy finish. Belvedere is another great choice. I'm not really on the Tito's bandwagon, but if you are, that would be a fine option, too. (Or make this cocktail with gin if you prefer.)
  4. Sake is a Japanese rice wine. I tend to use a good-quality Junmai or Junmai Gingo sake that I enjoy drinking. (Junmai means there's no no distilled alcohol added, and gingo has to do with the percentage that the rice is polished before brewing.) Here I've pictured a cute little can that also includes the word genshu, which means it wasn't diluted after brewing and therefore has a slightly higher alcohol percentage (18% vs. about 15%).
  5. Be sure to use freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Meyer lemon juice, which combine to provide a gorgeous spectrum of citrus flavors. If you can't find Meyer lemons, regular lemon juice is a fine substitution. Meyer lemons are a little bit sweeter and more floral, but both versions of this cocktail are nice.
  6. You can get a head start (and amp up the flavor profile) by muddling the ginger, lemongrass, and sugar and steeping it in the vodka up to a week in advance. Just cover it tightly and keep it in the fridge. Citrus juice will be at its absolute best for about three hours after squeezing, so I don't recommend proceeding with the rest of the prep until then.

Single serving instructions

If you’d prefer to make just one drink, here’s how. Muddle together in the bottom of a cocktail shaker 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger. Pour in one ounce (30 ml) vodka and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sake, 1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Meyer lemon juice, and plenty of ice. Shake well, until very cold. Double-strain into an ice-filled glass, garnish with lemongrass, and serve.
Adapted from Bojon Gourmet.

Nutrition

Calories: 275kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Cocktails
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.68 from 79 votes (79 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, after making the full batch, how much of the vodka/giner/lemongrass/sugar do you pour per drink, and how much sake, and lemon/grapefruit per drink?

    1. Hi Jess, if you follow the instructions all the way through, you’ll just have a single pitcher containing the whole batch of the finished cocktail (with the ginger/lemongrass/sugar solids strained out in a prior step). The recipe makes eight drinks, so you can just divide it among eight glasses if you’re following the procedure exactly, or just pour from the pitcher as you like.